Published on: September 30, 2015
by Kate McMahon
Remember, life is short, eat good food with your family.
That tag line from the folks at Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon, best summed up the goal of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) National Family Meals Month. We’ve been following the fledgling campaign and welcoming feedback from MNB readers on their efforts to promote family meals -- in store and on social media.
Two leading examples are family-owned retail operations on opposite sides of the nation: the aforementioned Newport Avenue Market, and Highland Park Markets based in Manchester, CT. Family-owned is an understatement – these are mom-and-pop-and-son-and-daughter operations. Interestingly, both families share a tradition – a weekly Sunday dinner that spans (and feeds) four generations.
Lauren G.R. Johnson is the chief operating officer, second-generation owner and self-described "Leader of the Pack" of Newport Avenue Market, founded by her parents, Rudy and Debbie Dory. They believe retailers have a responsibility to share the message about nutritious family meals with their customers and employees, and deliver product that makes it easy and economical to get that dinner (or breakfast or lunch) on the table.
“It doesn’t have to be a picture perfect, 'Leave it to Beaver' meal,” said Lauren, a single parent of a 12-year-old. “It might be food from the service deli or sushi blessed by our sushi chef Morris, a Buddhist monk. But it’s about sitting together as a family.”
For the Devanney family of the five-store Highland Park Markets, that adds up to about 30 people each Sunday at Tim and Mary Pat Devanney’s home. Five of their six children are in the family business, and they compare the scene to the weekly sit-down dinner in the CBS police drama “Blue Bloods.”
The Devanneys even created their own Highland Park oven mitts to support the #RaiseYourMitt to commit to one more family meal effort in September, and like the Dory/Johnson family, they practice what they preach.
Meanwhile in the Midwest, Lunds & Byerly’s stores worked with vendors and each department on a Saturday event featuring easy, nutritious recipes and samples. Amy Goetz, nutritionist in the company's Ridgedale, Minnesota, store, imported a “family” for the day – setting a table at the front of the store populated by her daughter’s bears, with room for children to join while their parents sampled the demonstrations. A simple, but effective, way of engaging customers. (See picture, above.)
Also in the Midwest, the dietitians at Festival Foods have been actively promoting family meals, and their blog even includes a primer on how to get kids involved in meal preparation, with suggestions for toddlers through teenagers.
Finally, another chain in America’s heartland took a different social media approach – the Meijer staff teamed up with #CansGetUCooking to host an evening online Twitter party, inviting followers to exchange recipes with the store dietitians and the canned food industry campaign.
All of the research reaffirms that children who regularly share meals with their family achieve higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and weight, and less risky behavior. I think the business takeaway here is clear: retailers need to commit to delivering the message and the product to their customers 12 months a year. And not just because of the threat from the fast-casual takeout segment, but rather because it will bring families into the store and back to the table for all of the right reasons.
Comments? As always, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
- KC's View: